A free consultancy service!
Liz Kirkham believes you should treat a quality assurance review as a free consultancy service.
Do you ever sit and wonder whether the way you run your practice is the most efficient or whether your quality controls are sufficient to provide a consistently good service to your clients?
It is difficult to assess how other firms might operate and keep their costs down without impairing the quality of their service to their clients. A quality assurance review can help you answer some of these questions.
By December 2003 ACCA had carried out a total of 404 quality assurance visits to firms in the UK and Ireland. The vast majority of firms are surprised at how practical the advice is and find the process an excellent way of benchmarking the adequacy of their internal control procedures.
After each visit firms are requested to complete an assessment form to comment on the conduct of the visit and the usefulness of advice given. Below are quotes from a sample of these assessment forms which represent the majority of comments we have received.
“The visit has helped us identify gaps and weaknesses in certain areas. We are already in the process of reviewing these areas and implementing procedures to improve our systems.” (A two partner firm based in South East England)
“Undoubtedly the visit focused the partners’ minds in relation to providing a high quality professional service. We believe that the programme will, through its provision of advice to member firms, raise standards throughout ACCA firms.” (A two partner firm based in Northern Ireland)
“I must confess that I would have been very pleased if the quality assurance review could have been avoided. That said, the review was very useful and constructive. Various recommendations have already been implemented, the remainder will be early in 2004, a most useful exercise. In addition, ACCA’s representative was most courteous and helpful, her comments and observations, in my opinion, demonstrated a considerable knowledge of the practical problems encountered by members in practice. I fully intend operating the appropriate controls to achieve the kitemark.” (A sole practice based in Ireland)
“It made us re-examine our methods and helped to motivate staff who have since made additional suggestions to increase quality of work done.”
(A sole practice based in South England)
“The visit was very constructive, the manner in which the visit was conducted was excellent. I got the feeling that this was a visit to help me and did not feel frightened if mistakes or errors were found as these areas were dealt with constructive criticism, help and advice. I benefited a great deal from the visit and subsequent report.” (A sole practice based in North East England)
“I was pleasantly surprised that this was helpful in a practical way and not just a tick in the box exercise. Being a sole practitioner it is always useful to have a fresh pair of eyes to look at possible improvements to the practice.” (A sole practice based in East Midlands)
“I found the visit useful. Even though I didn’t qualify, it has highlighted certain improvements which will be beneficial to the practice.” (A sole practice based in North East England)
Quality assurance visits are mandatory for all ACCA firms and are generally carried out alongside audit monitoring visits. However, the advice given on quality assurance issues is of a consultative nature and you can choose what if any action you take.
ACCA’s compliance officers are all qualified accountants with just the sort of broad experience needed to review your firm’s systems of control and advise you on best practice procedures.
So if you are selected to be visited in future there is no need to worry, quality assurance visits are not just more monitoring, but an excellent opportunity for firms to undergo a free business health-check and consultation.
Liz Kirkham - Compliance Officer, ACCA